Overcoming Stress: Learn From One Of The Greatest Of All Time

Dave Draper has won Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World! Learn his training tips and how he deals with stress the right way!

Loose ends, spilled milk, lost time, crushed expectations, curtailed fulfillments - these are the facts of life, the many struggles that lead us to stress and anxiety while we try valiantly to maintain a positive and cheerful attitude. If you're a bodybuilder, you add even more stresses - high goals, the drive for constant growth, a tyrannous schedule, physical exhaustion, intensity - until at times we don't know what specifically is upsetting us throughout the day. But the stress factors are gathering over the day until you want to scream.

Awareness Training

You need an outlet. Bodybuilding answers many of these problems by itself, most immediately through your very awareness of training, which serves as a lenitive through knowledge that you are rising above inadequacy or imagined inadequacy that can quickly subjugate you to stressful situations.

Yet your training is far more than a stress reducer. It's also a stress inhibitor. It is productive. Bodybuilding is concise, self-structured, self-controlled. You go into it as a single sport and arrange it to your own needs rather than to satisfy the needs of others.

You're getting a handle on something, and that's the crux of its benefit. The brutish part of training is positive involvement as you enter the gym, grab those weights and push and push and pull and squeeze that stress into further progress, further order that you gain in your life.

The Right Exercises

From that order accrues the proper arrangement of exercises, sets, repetitions - the routine; in essence, the disciplines of perseverance and fortitude. Even the assurance that you are developing these disciplines is an ancillary attraction, another quality you're gaining that enhances the tranquility of achieving order. It's a way of further stroking yourself, so to speak. You know that something more is taking place than mere performance of the exercise and the growth of muscle. You know that disciplines are being developed. That's encouraging.

I approach this state of mind methodically, beginning my training with 20 minutes of life-cycle work. It clears my mind for the rest of the workout and gets my adrenaline going without exorbitant demand. That starts the sorting out of thoughts in my mind; this is where I allow my mind to wander slightly while knowing I'm accomplishing something, and thinking thoughts, sometimes in meditation, sometimes prayerfully, always with God in there somewhere.

But going over the things I have before me in the day and how I need to attend to them and arrange my schedule, or going over issues that trouble me and at least put them into cubicles in my mind so I can get back to them later.

My Training

At this time, I never concentrate so much on any one problem but just put each in its place, not wanting to interfere with the focus I need to put on my training.

Then I proceed to abdominal work for another 20 minutes. This is where I rearrange my attitude and prepare my energy for the workout. I can establish myself psychologically by eliminating negative thoughts and encouraging positive thoughts and enthusiasm - the precursor of energy.

During this period, I'm feeling productive, accomplished. I'm gaining good ground. I'm arranging things emotionally, mentally, even spiritually, and establishing that rhythm.

When I reach my intermediate stage of training, I try to create a fine arrangement of the queries of my life, but so often I will construct a wider and more profound thought process, more profound than being cut off on the freeway and asking why this issue is before me today. This is where I find a release and allow my mind to describe its own path.

This is not to be conscious nor concentrated, not is it to be consuming; it merely flashes lightly through me as I train, because when I'm involved with a movement, I'm directly with the movement. At this point, my mind naturally responds to a certain harmony and flow and rhythm that comes from training, and from being in a position of peacefulness in knowing that I'm stepping forward and pressing on. I'm in a state of accomplishing. I feel comfortable. I feel secure. This is where I am in control.


As I progress further into my training and gain more control, my concentration becomes of such a nature that I coincide my training with an analytical process. My conscious coincides with my unconscious, and I start to deal with the questions and answers I have been facing through the day. I become introspective, sort out my problems, know where they lie and put them in specific order. This is a powerful stress inhibitor.

As I feel this order being established, what comes into my training once I'm involved is the dialectic I get with myself and the questions I ask, the talking over of the challenges or situations of the day, reviewing them, analyzing them, revealing things in my life. These are the conversations I have within myself as I train.

To produce a successful workout, to execute an exercise with form and style, to feel the muscles working, to experience positive pain, even the peace of pain, requires I be very attentive, very focused. Now I am developing the qualities of concentration and amplifying them, and it is here that I start to answer questions and expose certain factors as sources of my stress. This is not to imply that my training is always severe and intense. Most are mountaintop days that are lighthearted and performed with a smile.

Be Confident With Your Training

Once the beginning bodybuilder becomes familiar and confident with his training he will see some victory, achievement and direction. Energy is now funneled positively and a tranquil state of capability ensues. But first, your training demands attention. That's where you have the sense of pain and muscle response. You're looking for the groove where your movements are no longer awkward and unpleasant but poetic.

All these feelings of pressing on are there to prevent, diminish or negate the stresses that inhabit the shadows of your being. Speaking pretty much on a secular level, in bodybuilding you are in control, you are not the controlled. You are the boss, the giver and the receiver, where you're not on the freeway, you're not at work, you're not amid the crowds.

There is no compromise at the gym, no deals, no hustle. You get what you put into your training, you set up your schedule, you set up you input and you derive what you can from it.

There must be something to it, because for 30 years of training, I have had to stimulate enthusiasm, I have had to get up for it. If that doesn't happen, if the stress sustains, it's no longer exciting to go to the gym. That is when you quit. But to this day, I find that 4-out-of-5 of my workouts still have their moment in there somewhere. I emerge from them fulfilled and, as a result, renewed. Unfulfillment in your life is a monstrous source of stress. I have defeated that stress.

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